California Governor Gavin Newsom Writes Children’s Book on Dyslexia
On December 7, Philomel, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, will release California Governor Gavin Newsom’s hardcover children’s picture book. The big hello from Ben and Emmat, written with Ruby Shamir and illustrated by Alexandra Thompson. In a statement, the publisher said: “Inspired by Governor Newsom’s longstanding struggles with dyslexia …The big hello from Ben and Emmat tells the story of Ben, a kid who loves baseball and wants to fit in with school, even when his dyslexia sometimes holds him back. With the help of his teacher Ms. Kim and his classmate Emma, who also has learning difficulties, Ben learns that everyone has difficulties and everyone has talents, and that even when things are difficult, dedication and determination make the difference. The text of the book is printed in OpenDyslexic font to help people with dyslexia read it more easily. The 40-page book is aimed at children aged four to eight.
Newsom will donate all proceeds from the book to the International Dyslexia Association “to help create a future for all children struggling with dyslexia in which they have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive” . Newsom said in a statement, “Tens of millions of Americans struggle with dyslexia, including me. My dyslexia was particularly difficult when I was a child. I wondered why my younger sister was quickly finishing her homework while I was struggling. Reading aloud in front of the class filled me with thrilling fear and anxiety. My self-esteem and grades suffered until I learned what dyslexia is and strategies for dealing with it; So I wrote this book in the hope of helping young people with learning disabilities. According to the International Dyslexia Association, 15-20% of the population “has a language-related learning disability” and “dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.” The book is currently Amazon’s best-selling version
In an interview with ABC7 News in 2016, Newsom explained how his dyslexia impacted his education, saying, “School has been a terrible and terrifying experience. I’ll just be blunt with you – spelling, reading, writing. He also said, “I remember coming home and found out that I had dyslexia. I just thought I was frankly not that smart. Newsom was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of five and told the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity that in grade five, when he had to read aloud to his class, the other students laughed. “That’s when I basically gave up all reading. I did book reviews by literally reading the spine of the book and just copying the text, thinking the teacher would never find out.
Thompson is also the author and illustrator of his first picture book, A family for Louie, published in 2020 by GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.
In an interview, Jill Santopolo, vice president and associate editor, Philomel Books, said, “Governor Newsom’s book is perfect for any child or adult who has struggled to overcome challenges. The message that you are not alone in your struggles is particularly powerful right now. It is a book that families can read and discuss together and use as a starting point to discuss their own challenges. It is truly a privilege to put Governor Newsom on the Penguin List.